- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

Daily Notes: Five Notable Oliver Batting MLEs from 2012

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes.

1. Five Notable Oliver Batting MLEs from 2012
2. Qs and As with Brian Cartwright, Proprietor of Oliver
3. Video: Cleveland Prospect Dorssys Paulino

Five Notable Oliver Batting MLEs from 2012
Attentive readers — and entirely negligent ones, too, probably — will have noted by now that Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been appearing all up in these electronic pages over the course of the last month.

I don’t believe I’m letting any cats out of their various bags when I state that, soon, FanGraphs will also be releasing Brian Cartwright’s Oliver projections — projections, that is, which could be acquired only in exchange for vast amounts of American currency at The Hardball Times as recently as last year.

By way of whetting the readership’s collective appetite, I present below five notable major-league equivalent stat lines (or, MLEs) from the 2012 season, courtesy that same Oliver system.

As has been a theme within the comment threads of Szymborski’s projections, it’s essential to remember that the numbers below represent more than an expression of one dude’s whim, but rather are the product both of algorithmic calculation and the judgment of an actually trained person. As such, I’ve also included below a series of questions and answers with Cartwright regarding his process in formulating MLEs — and what we might learn about that process from these five (rather optimistic) translations, specifically. Furthermore, it should be noted that, unlike with projections, these aren’t subject to regression, and will therefore vary more widely from league averages.

Name: Shinnosuke Abe, 33, C
Organization: Yomiuri Giants Level: NPB
Actual: 555 PA, .340/.429/.565, 27 HR, 69 BB, 47 K
MLE: 555 PA, .336/.443/.563, 28 HR, 81 BB, 51 K
Notes: As rather knowledgeable, if poorly behaved, NPB analyst Patrick Newman noted for the author’s benefit via Twitter on Wednesday night, Abe was “far and away the best hitter in NPB last year” and also the “highest paid player in Japan.”

Name: Hiroyuki Nakajima, 29, SS
Organization: Seibu Lions Level: NPB
Actual: 567 PA, .311/.382/.451, 13 HR, 52 BB, 76 K
MLE: 567 PA, .302/.390/.436, 13 HR, 61 BB, 83 K
Notes: Nakajima’s 2012 season compares favorably with those of the best shortstops in the majors. Signed by Oakland, he’ll be their starting shortstop.

Name: Dorssys Paulino, 17, SS
Organization: Cleveland Level: Rookie/Low-A
Actual: 250 PA, .333/.380/.558, 7 HR, 18 BB, 45 K
MLE: 250 PA, .260/.296/.434, 7 HR, 12 BB, 67 K
Notes: Signed in 2011 out of the Dominican for $1.1 million, Paulino has been ranked second and third among Cleveland prospects this offseason by Baseball America and John Sickels, respectively — although, it should be noted that BA’s list omits Trevor Bauer, meaning Paulino might very well be third on a revised version of that one, too.

Name: Raph Rhymes, 22, OF
Organization: LSU Level: NCAA
Actual: 264 PA, .431/.489/.530, 4 HR, 22 BB, 13 K
MLE: 224 PA, .391/.425/.480, 3 HR, 11 BB, 20 K
Notes: As a junior last season, Rhymes led the NCAA in hitting while striking out in just under 5% of his plate appearances. That no team drafted him till the 30th round of the draft indicates that little is thought of his talent ceiling. Regarding the disparity in plate-appearance totals between his actual and MLE lines, it seems possible that Cartwright’s system is considering just conference stats.

Name: Daniel Vogelbach, 19, 1B
Organization: Chicago (NL) Level: Rookie/Low-A
Actual: 283 PA, .322/.410/.641, 17 HR, 35 BB, 48 K
MLE: 310 PA, .263/.331/.572, 22 HR, 27 BB, 79 K
Notes: Taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Vogelbach’s physique relegates him to first base, at best; however, he’s been a revelation offensively. Note: his Oliver MLE contains an additional 27 plate appearances from the Northwest League playoffs for Boise — hence the disparity.

Qs and As with Brian Cartwright, Proprietor of Oliver
Raph Rhymes from LSU has a very optimistic MLE translation — a .401 wOBA. What does that mean, precisely? That his numbers in college translate to the MLB equivalent of a .401 wOBA? That he’d bat at that level were he a major-leaguer this season?

That’s his unregressed translation, accounting for league and imputed park factors.

He still has a small sample, so after regression his projection is .276/.319/.390, .312 wOBA. Add in what’s likely bad defense (he played a lot of DH and corner outfield in college), and he doesn’t look like a major-league prospect.

Daniel Vogelbach‘s MLE wOBA for 2012 is higher than Bryce Harper‘s. Yet, Bryce Harper had a historically great age-19 season. Explain yourself!

Some of the same explanation [as with Rhymes]. An MLE is an unregressed evaluation of a single season, so the number of plate appearances means a lot in evaluating it.

Vogelbach had a tremendous 61 games in the low minors in 2012 (.276/.339/.604 present value MLE). He is considered a top prospect. Once that, and his six games in 2011, is regressed, his 2013 projection is .242/.304/.457, .326 wOBA, at age 20. Oliver expects Vogelbach to be a major-league-average first baseman by 2014 (.254/.317/.497, .346) and quite good by 2016 (.271/.339/.558, .377). What he’s shown so far is a ceiling of middling batting average, below-average walks, but 30-plus home runs. This next season will add a lot of data to make his projection more reliable.

Shinnosuke Abe?!?

You are also not seeing other seasons to be able to put 2012 in proper context (i.e. maybe the guy had an outlier year).

Abe’s MLE wOBAs for 2008-12 were .300, .313, .320, .349, and .401. Going into his age-34 season, his MLB projection is .265/.363/.434, .352 wOBA. He’s always been a good power hitter (44 HR in 2010), but in 2012 also hit for batting average (.341), after hitting between .271-.293 in the previous four years.

I think much of your questioning falls into the Ben Zobrist question — a great single season, or part season, is not to be confused with true-talent level. Zobrist was not the “best player” in MLB a couple years back [2009, in which Zobrist posted an 8.7 WAR], but he did have one of the five best performances that year (depending on whose WAR you use).

Abe’s MLE line (.336/.443/.563) is as strong as — if not stronger than — his actual NPB one (.340/.429/.565). Can you discuss that briefly? Does that mean the NPB is as good as the majors?!?

I’ve been struggling with the NPB conversions since they went to the new ball a couple years ago. It does seem to me that the batters are being translated too high, but I haven’t been able to find anything in the process that looks wrong. So, yes, I am somewhat uncomfortable with that but can’t explain it yet.

Raph Rhymes’ BABIP at LSU was about .440. How does Oliver handle that?

BABIP is one of the component rate stats in the projections that gets adjusted for ballpark, league and age, but in the flow chart doesn’t get referenced until after intentional walks, hit-by-pitch, sacrifice hits, walks, strikeouts, and home runs — so a player from college will also have his strikeout rate adjusted higher, resulting in fewer balls in play to be multiplied by the normalized BABIP. For leagues with play-by-play [data] (the Gameday leagues) I am working on breaking BABIP down into fly balls, ground balls, infield hits and bunts, and considering the field on flies to the outfield.

Hiroyuki Nakajima’s MLE from 2012 is quite strong (.302/.390/.436). What’s his projection?

It’s .260/.343/.367, .320 wOBA — not much power, above-average walk rate, below average strikeout rate.

Dorssys Paulino is only 17, plays shortstop, and has one of the best MLEs for his age. How far in the future does Oliver project for him? What’s his peak?

The standard projection is five years out (2017), but I can run more if I want. For 2017, at age 22, Oliver projects .259/.305/.434, .317 wOBA [for Paulino] — MLB average home-run rate, but fairly low on walk rate. Paulino’s sample size is small (222 weighted PAs, usually 350 is minimum for decent projection, 600 good, 1000 very good). His 2012 performance was off the charts for a 17-year-old, with a age-25 adjusted MLE of .355/.396/.749 in 250 plate appearances, but that gets a lot of regression.

A new toy that I’m working on, generating estimated rates for each stat based on a linear regression of all his other stats (profiling considering interaction of different rates), the results of which will be a part of customized regression means for each player, suggest major-league-average rates in most all stats. The input data was heavily regressed, but I believe (the best I know how to analyze it at this point) to get those results at 17 suggests he’s a legit prospect. His next 600-800 plate appearances will tell a lot.

Video: Cleveland Prospect Dorssys Paulino
Here’s video, courtesy Jeff Reese of Bullpen Banter, of Cleveland shortstop prospect Dorssys Paulino, whose translated minor-league numbers in 2012 were excellent: